By Maureen Williams, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (November 17, 2005)—A propolis extract cleared thrush, an oral yeast infection caused by Candida albicans, as effectively as the standard antifungal medication, according to Phytotherapy Research (2005;19:652–4).
When a yeast infection occurs in the mouth, a condition commonly known as thrush, it is usually caused by the organism Candida albicans. Thrush is most common in infants who have immature immune defenses; it can also occur in people who have diabetes, those with poorly fitting dentures, and people with a weak immune system due to cancer, Crohn’s disease, AIDS, or other serious illnesses. Certain medications such as steroids and chemotherapy drugs also weaken the immune system and may increase the risk of developing thrush. In addition, some people experience thrush after taking antibiotics, since these drugs disrupt the normal mouth flora and make it easier for candida organisms to multiply. Characterized by white patches on the tongue and insides of the cheeks that can be easily scraped off, the infection can spread to the palate, gums, throat, and eventually the respiratory and digestive tracts. Nystatin, an antifungal medicine typically used as an oral rinse-and-swallow, is used to treat thrush.
Propolis, sometimes called bee glue, is a natural product from honeybees used in the construction and maintenance of their hives. It has been used for hundreds of years to treat infections, reduce inflammation, and promote wound healing. The exact components and strength of the various properties of propolis can vary depending on where it comes from and the plants to which the bees had access. In general, however, it is rich in flavonoids, compounds that are often strong antioxidants. Numerous studies have shown the antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties of propolis. Recent research has suggested that propolis might also stimulate the immune system, fight cancer, and protect the liver.
Eighteen adults with thrush due to poorly fitting dentures participated in the current study. Six were treated with nystatin, and the remaining 12 were treated with an extract of propolis. Both groups were instructed to dry the infected area of the mouth with a swab and apply either the nystatin or the propolis directly to it four times a day. After 15 days, the infection had disappeared in all people in both treatment groups.
The results of this preliminary study suggest that an extract of propolis might be an effective treatment for thrush and, moreover, it appears to be as effective as the antifungal medicine nystatin. Controlled trials are needed to confirm these findings. It is noteworthy that many reports exist of allergic reactions to propolis. People should apply propolis to a small area of skin before using it in their mouth and discontinue use if a rash appears within 24 hours.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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